The local Whiffleking was bright and pink and full of screaming kids. Bill sat opposite Garry. The burgers sat cold on their transparent wrappers next to the empty chip buckets.
"I died at Pepper Ridge," Bill began. "Not permanently. I was in a ResRec tube for six weeks. I was lucky. Anita spent seventeen weeks in one before they turned her off. Everyone else died on the Ridge."
"Official paperwork has it at two casualties," Garry prompted.
"From an industrial accident, yeah. Like a kettle set the building on fire or some shit and two people didn't hear the alarm." Bill took a deep breath then continued. "We lost fourteen Acquas in ten minutes. The shadows came alive, clawing and grabbing and pulling and ripping. And eating. I was on the top level near a fire escape. Something took my left leg. Just fucking took it, like it wasn't attached. I fell out the door screaming and woke up in one of those fucking blue tubes. Thank fuck they didn't have to ask me any of those fucking questions."
Bill laughed to release the tension and took a bite of the cold burger.
"So if you're-" he swallowed, "if you're asking me if I think the Ups have any idea what the fuck they're doing? No. Fuck no."
Garry sighed, blinked twice, then said, "No, bigger than that. The Ups are... useless. Bureaucrats, politicians, accountants. The powerful, non-committal face of People Inc. The grand... scheme. The point. What the fuck are we doing?"
"We provide people, sir. We tailor the people for the need, sir." Bill grinned.
"Yeah, yeah. We create psychopaths and try to train them to be normal."
"The psychopath stage is essential, and you know it. How many did you go through before you realised they needed a purpose to survive the process?"
"Thirty-four. Thirty-four perfectly healthy specimens with broken brains that looped the different MemRecs until everything just... squished... together and they escaped their ConDes searching for their earliest memory of their first day of kissing or some screwed up thought and they wandered until they died of thirst, another unknown bum dead on the side of the road."
"So we give them a purpose - to kill - then modify it to suit the Consigned Destination through training. How could that possibly go wrong?"
Garry looked at Bill's smirk and sighed. "How is 274?"
"As fucked as the rest of them at this stage. As advanced as the rest of them at this stage. He's exactly the same as all those other psychopaths that we've covered up and unleashed on the world."
Garry closed his eyes and bowed his head for a minute before looking up at Bill with piercing blue eyes.
"I'm tired of this, Bill. Sam's MemRec yesterday made me sick. I don't want to do this anymore."

The End

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